I'll use the coin-operated jukebox in this week's Sepia Saturday image prompt to post a follow-up to the article on Photomatic booths and photos that I wrote a year ago.
Original Photomatic photo booth, Machine No. DP 3
Image © and courtesy of The Powerhouse Museum
Based on an advertisement in Wellington's Evening Post dated 23 January 1940 and a battered instruction plate in the Tauranga Museum collection, I have deduced previously that at least one Photomatic photobooth, such as the well preserved original shown above from Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, was exported to and operated in New Zealand.
Catherine & Errol Morton, Wellington, New Zealand, January 1940
Silver gelatin print in crimped metal frame with printed card backing
Taken by Photomatic (Wellington) Ltd.
Images © and courtesy of Margaret Parkes
I now have direct evidence of that. Margaret Parkes kindly sent me these images of two Photomatic portraits of her parents, probably taken on the eve of her father's departure for service overseas in the Second World War, possibly at the Centennial Exhibition.
I have a pair of prints of my mother and father taken in Wellington before his departure to WW2. To the best of my knowledge they were taken early in January 1940 as the troops boarded the ship on the 5th. My parents Errol and Catherine Morton were living in Taranaki so the time she was most likely to have visited Wellington was for his departure, although I see that the Centennial Exhibition was on at the time.
Advertisements from Ellesmere Guardian, 19 November 1937,
and Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 16 November 1937
Images courtesy of Papers Past
A detailed search in the online newspaper archives of the period shows that Photomatic Limited was formed in May 1937, shares in the company quickly being listed for sale by brokers in Auckland. In November that year, the department store of Hay's Ltd in Christchurch advertised the new Photomatic as the only one of its kind in the South Island, "a wonderful machine ... takes your photo, develops, prints, and FRAMES it ... in ONE MINUTE."
Advertisement from Evening Post, 2 July 1938
Image courtesy of Papers Past
Between 11 June and 6 August 1938 Photomatic (Wellington) Limited were seeking "smart young ladies" and "smart youths" to apply in person for positions as attendants for Photomatic portrait-taking machines. The advertisement for 2 July 1938 described the booth as being located in Selfridge's Department Store, Cuba Street.
Advertisement from Evening Post, 23 January 1940
Image courtesy of Papers Past
Then there is nothing until early 1940, when the company appears to have operated a Photomatic booth at the Centennial Exhibition in Wellington. Various trade directories show the company operating from premises at 315 Cooke's Building, 58-60 Queen Street, Auckland Central in 1937-1938, from 182 Featherston Street in 1941, and at 23 Waring Taylor Street in 1948-1949, both in Wellington.
Which leaves us with a few questions that I hope we'll be able to answer some day. Why are there so few references to Photomatic booths in New Zealand? Were the booths hired out, complete with operaters, to franchisees in the various locations, or did the firm maintain control of each one? How many were there? Where did the instruction plate in the Tauranga Museum Collection come from, and where is the rest of the booth? How long did the firm remain in business? Were they really still going in 1948? Where are all the portraits taken in these booths? There must be many remaining in private collections, but I haven't been able to find any in public collections listed online.
Bud Payne, Durban, South Africa, 4 April 1968
Photomatic photobooth portrait (65 x 68mm)
Images © and collection of Brett Payne
There are few signs of Photomatic booths being exported to other parts of the world, but I found evidence that they were, somewhat bizarrely, in my own family photo collection. This photobooth portrait of my father was taken in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa in 1968, which is pretty late in context of the heyday of the American Photomatic. Although the silver card backing has no identifying marks indicating that it emanated from a Photomatic apparatus, the metal frame, card type and apparent method of manufacture are identical. It has occurred to me that it may have been produced from a refurbished Photomatic machine after the demise of the business elsewhere.
Mystery Photobooth Portraits
Image Collection of Donald Lokuta and courtesy of Rutgers Today
Lastly, I thought I'd direct readers to an article that appeared recently regarding an exhibit titled "445 Portraits of a Man" currently on display as part of "Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture," an exhibition showing at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Jersey until July. It's an extraordinary collection of Photomatic images, all of the same man, taken over three decades from the late 1930s until the 1960s. The man's identity and why the portraits were collected, remains a mystery.
If you haven't had enough of coin-operated machines after that, you may well find a few more among the remaining Sepia Saturday contributions this week.
Relevant advertisements and share price listings appeared in several New Zealand newspapers on the following dates:
Auckland Star: 15 May 1937, 17 Jul 1937, 11, 18, 22 & 23 Feb 1938, 2, 11, 15 Mar 1938
Ellesmere Guardian: 16 & 19 Nov 1937
Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser: 16 & 19 Nov 1937
Evening Post: 11 & 21 June 1938, 2 Jul 1938, 6 Aug 1938, 23 Jan 1940
Auckland Libraries Photographers Database, entry for Photomatic Wellington Ltd.
Payne, Brett (2013) Andy Warhol looks a scream, Hang him on my wall, on PhotoSleuth, 3 May 2013.
Verbanas, Patti (2014) Mystery Photobooth Portraits Baffle Historians, Rutgers Today, 27 March 2014.